Derwen College

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					OASES Award 2011

Derwen College
Introduction
Derwen College was one of six winners of the 2011 Online Accessibility Self Evaluation
Service (OASES) Award. Below you will find their initial submission as well as the
additional evidence provided following shortlisting.

Initial Submission
Technological developments and applications at Derwen College are guided by a clear
ILT strategy which strives to motivate learners to take ownership for their learning and
assessment through the effective use of suitable technologies. The strategy advocates
low technology: high impact solutions to improve the learner experience.

The college has a well established e-guide program in place to demystify technology and
embed the use of ILT in teaching and learning. The college believes that it is not the
technology but the pedagogical application thereof and staff and students have access to
an open forum to share good practice. This program has had a positive impact on the
confidence of the college to embrace new and emerging technologies.

The college promotes independence and puts the learner at the centre of the program.
Where students with profound disabilities are unable to make a phone call home, Skype
is advocated to facilitate their communications. Both the student and guardians are
supported to make the best use of video technologies to ensure this practice is
sustainable over the long term.

Video conferencing in its many forms is used extensively throughout the college to
enhance the learner experience. Students communicate with partner colleges using
Makaton, while apprehensive leavers interview staff and peers of their intended
destination. Reviews are an important occasion for learners and the availability of video
and telephone conferencing promotes participation by all stakeholders.

A balance between safeguarding and promoting independent access to popular internet
technologies and social networking is one that the college continuously strives to
maintain. Learners have supported access to Facebook on an agreement that they
accept a Derwen College Facebook account as a friend. E-safety is promoted through
discussions and tips are posted on their walls. Facebook has now become the college
Alumni site where events such as Fete Day and student achievements are promoted. An
open e-safety forum is held every Thursday for learners to discuss the safe use of
technologies.

A PowerPoint based e-Portfolio template has provided learners with a familiar platform
to record their own progress and achievements. They have opportunities to translate
learning goals into their own words, using Makaton symbols where applicable, to
foster their understandings thereof. Learners are inspired to take ownership of
their achievements and regularly liaise with staff for content. The e-portfolios




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OASES Award 2011

are reviewed in Personal Tutorials and stakeholder meetings; often at the request of the
learner.

The college is a firm believer in the power of learner voice and promotes existing
technologies such as Janet Text for the student council to send reminders and tips to the
student body. Oak Radio and Derwen TV are simple pod and vodcasts made available
on the network. Learners have access to electronic display boards to present information.
The college continuously strives to remain at the forefront of using simple technologies to
enhance the independence of learners. All technologies are evaluated for their added
values before being made available. Digital photo frames and talking photo albums are
the latest trials in supporting access to timetables and learning goals.

Additional evidence following shortlisting
Explain how your project influences (or arises from) organisation practices.

The e-guide program has allowed us to build up a bank of resources ranging from simple
video cameras to digital notebooks and a mobile classroom kit. These are available to
loan to teaching and learning staff across college, giving them access to resources they
may otherwise not get a chance to use. These resources are promoted through termly e-
café training events where staff can not only receive training in using the equipment but
also share ideas on how to use them effectively to enhance learning. The focus is
always on using simple technologies, in a simple way to get the maximum impact. The
equipment loan system also ensures value for money as new technologies can be trailed
and their impact evaluated by various staff before purchasing additional piece for
individual departments.

Supporting learners to access social networking technologies has lead to the
development of a whole college approach to the wider issue of e-safety. Learners who
use Facebook are ‘befriended’ by the generic college account through which they can
access e-safety tips, videos and individual support both from within college and when
they access from home. Staff use the account to support learners responsible use
particularly with making friends and ‘posting’ of information/images. In addition to this,
the page acts as an Alumni site for leavers, supporting their transition from the college
which can often be a trying time for them. All students have the opportunity to attend e-
safety drop in sessions which cover a range of themes from social networking ‘health
checks’ to mobile phone safety. The sessions are promoted across college by means of
the weekly diary and through the personal tutorial and counselling team. All e-safety
issues are reported to the ILT staff in liaison with student services.

Our PowerPoint e-portfolios are now an integral part of both the induction and transition
process within the college through the Personal Development Team. Learners regularly
request that examples of achievements be included in their e-portfolio which gives
them a real sense of ownership for their progression. They have been successfully
used in Reviews and tutorials and are presented in different formats to the
learners for future use.




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OASES Award 2011

Explain how your project influences (or arises from) organisational policy and
strategy.

All technological developments and applications at Derwen College are guided by a clear
ILT strategy which strives to motivate learners to take ownership for their learning and
assessment through the effective use of suitable technologies. The strategy which
advocates low technology: high impact puts the learner at the heart of the program
ensuring widespread inclusion.

An ILT committee with representatives from all areas of the college meets termly to
review the ILT strategy and policies. While developments are guided by the strategy,
flexibility is essential in ensuring it remains relevant in times of rapid technological
changes. Staff are encouraged to remain current with developments and the committee
provides a platform to share ideas and provide feedback on current and future trends.
This bottom up approach ensures that staff have an input and that developments are
relevant and applicable.

The college advocates working in partnerships. Close links with learning organisations,
JISC services including the RSC’s, have not only supported the college development, but
has allowed the college to share its experiences with the wider community. These links
are crucial in ensuring sustainability of developments for both the college and the sector.

Safeguarding is on everybody’s agenda and e-safety concerns significantly impact policy.
The college does not provide wireless networks but has adopted the recommendations of
the Byron report and provides internet facilities in the communal areas of the college and
residences. A whole college approach to safeguarding results in excellent communication
of risks and areas of concern. The college believes in developing learners’ life skills in a
safe and supportive manner and therefore allows access to Facebook and other popular
internet technologies within a protective framework.

Explain the impacts of your project so far on teaching and/or learning and any
anticipated future impacts (up to 500 words).

The low-tech approach together with the e-guide program has had a positive impact on
the quality of teaching and learning across college. E-guides were carefully selected
based on both their enthusiasm for and creative use of new technologies. The ‘pockets’
of best practice are shared via both departmental team meetings and the wider forum of
the e-cafe’s. Having an e-guide within each department means they are able to evaluate
resources in terms of the suitability for their respective needs. The low tech approach
means that more staff are willing to ‘give it a go’ as it doesn’t require additional expertise
and precious time. Tasks such as recording learner voice and achievement have become
routine.

The equipment loan system also ensures value for money as new technologies
are trailed and their pedagogical impact evaluated by before further purchases
are made. At present we are trialling the use of i-pads to make learning




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OASES Award 2011

more accessible to particular learners.

The Derwen College Facebook account has not only been invaluable in supporting the
safe and appropriate use of social networking and other digital media, but also provides
learners with an open forum to discuss e-safety and wider college issues. Student
Council and NUS reps can post messages to inform of upcoming events or outcomes
from meetings. Students are involved in updating the Facebook profile and advertising
events such as the college sponsored walk or NUS Meeting.

The use of Skype has had a significant impact and is now spreading from a handful of
learners with significant communication difficulties to a wide selection of learners. The
ability to use Makaton or other signing over video has made a real difference in
promoting independence for the learner who would otherwise have had to rely on third
party support. New learners can see as well as talk to close family members, particularly
during the difficult settling in period, which often helps overcome homesickness and
embrace their first taste of life away from home. At the other end of the spectrum, Skype
and video conference facilities have been used during the transition period to introduce
learners to staff and students from destination placements where a visit in person has not
been possible. This gives the students the opportunity to ask their own questions and
again can alleviate anxieties of particularly those learners on the Autistic spectrum who
can prepare themselves for what to expect.

Sustainability of projects has become an issue particularly due to staffing and structural
changes where key links within some departments have been lost. Current efforts are to
consolidate initiatives and embed positive outcomes of previous projects within the
culture of the college. We hope to recreate the momentum and thus the impact on
teaching and learning by again returning to the basics of the scheme.




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